Rated: 4/5 Stars
Part comedy, part drama, East is East is the story of a Pakistani-British household in 1960s England.
George Khan (Om Puri) is a first generation Pakistani immigrant married to a British woman named Ella (Linda Basset). The complexity kicks in around the antics of their part Paki- part Brit children who walk to line between two different worlds but finally are forced to choose between being individuals or doing as their father dictates.
This conflict is brought to light by George Khan, who in fervor to be accepted by the Pakistani community and due to an internal struggle to not betray his own culture, sets off a series of events that drive the story forward.
George sees his world around him collapsing and resorts to draconian measures. He is losing the control and respect of his family whom he is trying, with his best intentions, to bring up in an Islamic way, a tradition he sees as the only choice, where all are equal, a ‘special community’ which he expects his children to continue. They see themselves as British, not Pakistani, and they get increasingly frustrated with their father’s attempt to mould them in his image.1
Each character contributes in their own unique way that helps navigate through the complex circumstance and dilemmas faced by most Pakistani/immigrant families even today. Though the film may take place over four decades ago, the story still hits close to home for first and second generation immigrants. East is East does an excellent job of highlighting these struggles, and does so without vilifying any one character – emphasizing tolerance and compassion as the underlying message of the film.
Released in 1999, BAFTA award-winning East is East is based on the play of the same name by Ayub Khan-Din. The film was directed by Damien O’Donnell.